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Pain vs Suffering

Pain is one of the first things that women will say they are concerned about in labor.  It is interesting to note that women describe this experience differently, and pain takes on different meanings for different people.  What we find, is that while pain may be there for many labors, not everyone experiences suffering who feel pain.

Pain Assessment

As a part of the course, I have my students explore this idea through an interview with someone about pain, and what they use to cope with it.  Below is an example:

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-in-gray-tank-top-while-sitting-on-bed-3807730/

From Sarah Fischer
Assignment: UNIT 4 UNIT PROJECT – Pain Assessment

What is pain? Pain is something that is not necessarily suffering, it is usually an unpleasant sensation that may or may nor be associated with suffering (Simkin. pg 112)
What is suffering? Suffering is when you are emotionally distressed, it doesn’t always have to do with injury. It can be caused by fear or panic or loss of control that may not be associated with pain ( Simkin. pg 112).

Pain Assessment

This lady’s name is A., she has had X children

Previous experience with pain: The worst pain A. has had is a big splinter of wood go up her arm and all of her childbirth experiences.

What she uses to cope with pain: visualizing, working on breathing, and meds. So you can tell that A. is definitely an internally focused women when it comes to coping with pain.

What she expects the people in her birthing team to do for her pain: She wants quiet encouragement, she doesn’t like a lot of rubbing, she likes pressure more than movement, and a calm presence. She likes rubbing after each contraction, to alleviate back pain she likes pressure on her back, and she also likes to focus on who is delivering the baby. During transition she would slip into a different conciseness and let her body do what it needed to.


Simkin, P. (2013). The Birth Partner: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor companions (4th ed.). Beverly, MA: The Harvard Common Press.

Follow Rachel Leavitt:

Rachel has worked as a register nurse (BSN from University of Utah) since 2004 with a work history in Labor and Delivery, NICU and Postpartum Care. She is also the founder of New Beginnings Doula Training which she organized in 2011. When she's not busy being a mother and grandmother, she can be found reading research papers related to some aspect of childbirth.

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